Articles > > Five-Party Summit

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-12-02
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

A five-party Islamic summit is slated to be held in Kuala Lumpur in a few days' time.
In addition to the host country Malaysia, the state participants include Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Qatar, with [Malaysian PM] Mahathir Mohamad and [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan sponsoring the summit. The former said that the five-party summit is not an exclusive club and will be open to new members in the future, while the latter's aide Yasin Aktay offered a reminder that this is not the first time that this group has come together.
The five member states boast a combined population of over half a billion, representing almost 40 percent of the global Muslim population. In addition to the leaders and official delegations, the summit will host no less than 500 intellectual, religious, media, and cultural Muslim figures in breakout sessions. We are thus facing an Islamically significant event bringing some major states together.

Three are the most populous in the (non-Arab) Muslim world, and their political systems range from dynastic monarchy to dictatorship and emerging democracy. In some, the military plays a critical role in politics, governance, finance, and business (i.e. a militariat), while in others, the army sticks to its traditional role without transgression.

Some are economically advanced, having joined the Tiger Club economies early on, while others have built their glory on the hydrocarbon industry, and the rest are relatively low on the developmental ladder. There is also great disparity between the five countries' growth, and they are geographically distant and noncontiguous. There is no indication that this bloc was formed on the assumption of complementary interests, whereby some member states produce strategic goods needed by others, but such an arrangement may be reached in the future.
All these undeniably significant differences raise a question about the criteria for selecting these countries to form the core of this new pan-Islamic bloc. What unites the Arab East with its West? Are we dealing with a political axis or an economic organization? If it is the former, as a joint decision between give countries with common ground, what is the first and foremost objective of this alliance, and which states/axes will be targeted to join it?

We understand that the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) is close to meeting the same fate [of political decline and irrelevance] as the Arab League, and we recognize that its member states have the right to form a bloc or network to work on achieving ailed OIC objectives. However, is it enough to invoke 'an Islamic renaissance' and 'the Muslim world's revival' for this summit to be justified and understandable?

Several Arab countries will be conspicuously absent: Egypt (the largest Arab country), Saudi Arabia (home of the Holiest two Muslim Mosques), the UAE, and Jordan (with its Hashemite custodianship over the Aqsa Mosque the third major Muslim holy site, and home of the Amman Message and the school of Islamic moderation). Why are these countries absent?

Are we dealing with an alliance of countries that are not comfortable or at ease with Saudi policy? Pakistan is not, nor is Indonesia, and I assume the same goes for Malaysia as well. Why else would Egypt and the UAE be excluded?

"If this in indeed the case, then what we have is a new Muslim world axis (rather than leadership), unless it turns out to be not a serious or sustainable initiative, but a stillborn framework.